You’ve finished NaNoWriMo! You’ve completed a whole book in a month! You are seriously hot stuff! Go get a cookie. No wait, get two. You’ve earned it, kiddo.
“But wait,” you’re saying, “I’m busy right now. I was just about to publi–”
STOP RIGHT THERE, YOU! Yes, you.
Don’t push that button.
This post was originally going to be called “Advice to Past-Me,” because I have SO been there — and still step over there when the flights of fancy get a bit giddy — but I realized this feeling probably applies to a lot of people coming down off that writing euphoria.
I know the feeling, believe me I do. You have just written the most amazing piece of writing the world has ever known. You are going to be so famous. Your book is like the lovechild of J K Rowling, Isaac Asimov, and all the best parts of your favorite movies. It’s gonna be so big, you guys.
Coming down off that writing high is exactly like being a 15-year-old who just had a first date and held hands for the first time. OMG! That was, like, the best ever! Your heart is all fluttery and it feels like it must burst if you don’t show the world RIGHT NOW because this is your moment and you owned it and nobody understands.
But I beg you: Don’t publish right away.
You may be right. I hope you are! I hope your book really is the next best thing. But if it is, then it won’t be hurt by what I’m going to recommend, and it might save you from the pain of rejection.
The first thing you should do? Walk away from your work for a month, minimum. Go on, you’ve earned the break! And if you still want to keep writing, go do something else. NOT a sequel or whatever. Just something totally different.
After that month, gently crack open your manuscript again, give it a read. It may not look as shiny as it did when you put it down; that’s ok, just do some edits, put in the work. If it does look amazing, first of all, you are a lucky duck. Second, get another opinion. It can be the opinion of your mom or your husband or your kid or your neighbor down the hall, but do tell them to be honest with you.
They’re not going to be honest with you. They’re going to try to be nice to you. But they might try to gently tell you they didn’t “love love” that one little teensy part. This will feel like ultimate betrayal, but this is what you need. Go work on that part.
Then, share your work with someone else, someone less close to you, if you can. Someone who can more reliably destroy your feelings for the sake of good work. (Warning: these people are often hard to get to actually read the danged thing). Take it to a critique group, if you have one.
This is going to feel like someone is stepping on your heart, crushing it into jello. But that’s okay. Your work will be better for it.
Then get your work edited, by someone who is not you. If you are exceptionally lucky, you know someone who is gifted in this area who will do it for free, but these people are special snowflakes, so don’t be discouraged if you need to pay for it. In fact, I don’t trust any unpaid editors, personally. If your work really is the best thing ever, you want it to shine! Stories with typos do not shine, as a rule. Put your money where your mouth is!
(If you don’t know where to find an editor, start Googling. I like Writer.ly. I also happen to be a copy editor, and editing is one of the things I love to do… )
Now, after you have gotten your manuscript reviewed a few times and it’s edited, now maybe it really is the best work ever.
It’s also probably been at least six months since you finished writing it. Maybe it’s a year. But that’s okay! A novel is not a mayfly, emerging whole overnight. It’s an ant colony; it takes time and coordination and help to build it up into something incredible.
Now… now you can publish. Or you can start the process of contacting agents and trying to be traditionally published.
I know that all might sound mean and/or out of touch, because that initial excitement is SO heady. Don’t lose that excitement, but do try to put it in its correct context. That’s really hard to do, particularly when it’s your first rodeo. Slow your roll, new writer. It is more rewarding then publishing prematurely and facing the barrage of poor reviews.
Don’t do it. Not yet, anyway.